Trying To Make It At SXSW

Over 10 days, I followed an Atlanta band, filmmaker, and startup through their SXSW experiences. I wrote about it all for this week's Creative Loafing cover and took plenty of photos along the way.

Every March, hundreds of thousands of musicians, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs from around the world descend on Austin, Texas, in hopes of being discovered at South by Southwest. Now in its 27th year, the once-local festival has swelled to a nearly $200 million economic behemoth for Texas' capital city — up from $113 million just three years ago. That money largely comes from corporations and industry giants that, in turn, plaster the city with their iconic logos. This year, concertgoers watched musicians perform on a stage erected inside a six-story Doritos vending machine. Web geeks waited in a four-block line to share an Instagram photo taken with Grumpy Cat, the real-life version of the Internet meme. The conference's interactive component has particularly grown over the past five years, creating opportunities for emerging social media startups such as Twitter and Foursquare to become industry titans.

But with each passing year, name-brand business's hold on the festival gets tighter, leaving dwindling opportunities for the independent artists SXSW originally set out to promote. Media companies rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars at the annual event, while individual creators usually leave with less in their pockets than when they arrived. Nevertheless, the allure of the breakout SXSW appearance compels legions of musicians, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs to make the trek.

This year, CL followed a group of Atlantans trying to make it at the 10-day festival: local band Dog Bite, euphonia director Danny Madden, and entrepreneur/N4MD co-founder James Harris. Everyone had the potential to make an impact in Austin, but even those with serious talent can get lost in the chaos. (Read the full story here)
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